Starbucks Drink Guide: Macchiatos
They say to be successful as a writer, you should write about what you know. As a passionate Starbucks barista, the first thing I thought of on reading this advice was to write about my job.
My favorite part of my work day is when I'm able to figure out the perfect drink for a confused customer. With that in mind, I started writing a series of guides to help people interpret Starbucks' unconventional menu. The first installment, which addresses the basics, can be found here.
In the previous part in my series of guides, I addressed Starbucks' iced teas. Check it out here.
I've been thrilled to see my guides have been getting some positive responses. I truly enjoy writing about the beverages as much as I enjoy drinking and serving them, and I'm glad people have found them helpful and easy to understand. I've even gotten a request - after covering lattes and cappuccinos, I seem to have neglected a third major menu item: Macchiatos.
There are actually five items on the Starbucks menu that go by the name of Macchiato, and in true confusing Starbucks style, they are completely different beverages. Let's start off this guide by talking about the most popular of the three - Caramel Macchiatos.
Pumps of Syrup (Vanilla)
Shots of Espresso
Venti - hot (20oz)
Venti -iced (24oz)
At a glance, the Caramel Macchiato doesn't seem all that different from a Latte. In fact, I like to think of it as a dressed up Vanilla Latte. The basic components for a Caramel Macchiato by size are displayed in the table above.
If you remember my previous guide about Starbucks Lattes, then you might notice that the Caramel Macchiato gets one less pump of syrup than a Latte. This is because the drink is topped with a thick, sweet caramel drizzle from which it gets it's name. Starbucks reduced the number of pumps of syrup in the Caramel Macchiato to account for the extra sweetness the caramel drizzle adds.
Speaking of the name of the drink, explaining what it means is the best way to explain how the drink is made. The word Macchiato means 'to mark,' and it refers to the foam on top of the drink being marked by the espresso and caramel drizzle.
So, while a latte is composed by adding syrup, then espresso and then is topped with milk foam, the Caramel Macchiato is kind of the reverse. First, the vanilla syrup is added and then the steamed milk and foam are poured into the cup without the espresso. Baristas then use the espresso to mark the foam - the shots are poured over top of the drink, and then a crosshatch of caramel drizzle adorns the top.
The point of assembling the Caramel Macchiato like this is to give a different experience than drinking a regular latte. When drinking this beverage, you'll first be treated to a stronger espresso taste than it's well mixed latte counterpart. The caramel drizzle and foam cut the bitterness of the espresso and make for a very pleasing taste. Once the top of the drink is consumed, you're left with the delicious and sweet mixture of vanilla syrup and milk in the second half - peppered with bits of caramel drizzle that have sunk to the bottom of the cup.
There are, of course, ways to customize a Caramel Macchiato. I've served plenty of these drinks with just one pump of syrup for people who don't have much of a sweet tooth. I've probably served just as many with extra pumps of the vanilla. It's not quite as common to deviate from the standard recipe with a flavor other than vanilla, but it's certainly doable. By default, the Caramel Macchiato is made with 2% milk, but any other milk on the menu is substitutable.
The Skinny Caramel Macchiato features sugar-free vanilla and nonfat/skim milk. There is still some sugar present in this skinny version, because the caramel drizzle unfortunately does not come sugar-free.
As with a Latte, a Caramel Macchiato can be made with light foam or no foam. I'm personally a fan of milk foam and think it's the component that really makes this recipe unique, but I won't judge you if you ask me to leave it off. Just know that without the foam, the espresso will sink to the bottom of the drink much more easily which leads to the beverage tasting much more like a latte.
There is a term that was coined with the idea of Caramel Macchiatos in mind - upside down. If you order this drink upside down, that means that the shots will be poured into the bottom of the drink and it will be made like a Latte. Really, an upside down Caramel Macchiato is the same exact thing as a Vanilla Latte minus one pump and with caramel drizzle added, but it's less of a mouthful. For drinks that the drizzle doesn't come as a standard part of the recipe, there IS an extra charge, so however you choose to order your upside down Caramel Macchiato, the pricing will be the same.
Iced Caramel Macchiato
There is an amazing iced version of this drink that is definitely on my top ten list of favorite Starbucks beverages. The iced Caramel Macchiato is assembled in the same way as the hot one, but the experience of drinking it is just the opposite. Since the straw goes to the bottom of the drink, you get to start off with the sweet vanilla flavored milk and end with a dose of espresso and caramel drizzle. Unlike an iced cappuccino, there's no steamed milk foam added to this iced version. Usually, the ice keeps some of the caramel drizzle on top of the drink while letting just enough of it sink to the bottom to be enjoyed with the first creamier half of the beverage.
This drink is available both hot and iced, and it is made just the same as the Caramel Macchiato, except with the substitution of Hazelnut drizzle instead of Caramel drizzle. It still gets vanilla syrup!
Starbucks is in the process of phasing this drink off of their menu. It wasn't as big a hit as anticipated. However, it is still readily available in many markets as we work on selling through the remaining Hazelnut Drizzle.
The Vanilla Macchiato is a great drink for any Vanilla lover! It is made the same way as the Caramel and Hazelnut Macchiatos, but it is topped with a Vanilla flavored drizzle. The Vanilla drizzle tastes a bit like cake batter and is an awesome way to top off a drink.
As with the Hazelnut Drizzle, the Vanilla Drizzle is currently being phased out. My store is completely out of this topping, but other stores in my market still have an abundance left to sell through.
Marble Mocha Macchiato
A delicious variation on the Carmel Macchiato is the Marble Mocha Macchiato. At one point, this drink did reside on Starbucks' menu boards. While it has since been retired, it's still a fairly popular drink and can certainly still be made by any barista worth their salt.
The Marble Mocha Macchiato differs from the Carmamel Macchiato mostly in flavor. The composition is basically the same, with the shots being poured over top of the foam. Instead of vanilla, however, this drink is made with white mocha. It is not topped with caramel drizzle, but the foam is instead marked with a crosshatch of mocha drizzle. Unfortunately, there's no real way to make this drink any less chockful of calories, though trying it with skim milk doesn't hurt.
And, because nothing can ever be simple, there is one more Macchiato drink that has nothing to do with the previous two drinks in this guide. The Espresso Macchiato is becoming a more common order as Starbucks is featuring its espresso based beverages. It's an interesting alternative to ordering plain shots of espresso.
While we've learned in this guide that Macchiato means 'to mark,' I cannot for the life of me figure out why this drink has that name, because nothing is marked. An Espresso Macchiato is simply one or two shots of espresso poured into a short cup and then topped with milk foam. It's like a tiny, very dry cappuccino. In this instance, I suppose the foam is marking the espresso as opposed to it being the other way around.
The simplicity of this menu item leaves it very customizable. You can flavor or sweeten it with anything you like and the amount of shots in it are completely up to you. Instead of being ordered by Starbucks standard size, it's actually ordered by the amount of espresso you'd like - Solo for one, Doppio or Double for two, Triple for three, Quad for four... and if you really want more espresso than that in your cup, it's easiest to just say you'd like five or six shots.
Thanks for reading! I hope you've learned something from this guide. If you're interested in learning the ins and outs of the Starbucks menu, check out my other guides. In the next installment, I'll cover Tea Lattes.
Questions & Answers
Is it ok to have one iced caramel macchiato from Starbucks a day?
There are plenty of people who have Starbucks every day! While you would have to keep an eye on your diet for whatever other caffeine and sugar you might be having, there’s nothing incredibly unhealthy about an iced caramel macchiato. There is a lot of sugar in a Venti, though, so be careful with that.